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Proven 4 Stage Consulting Project Process: Video


We’re going to talk about how to develop a consulting engagement process. There’s many different ways to go about this, but I want to introduce you to one that is very straightforward yet very powerful. It’s a way that you can start to think about how to deliver your consulting services with a lot more structure.

That structure is not only beneficial for you — because it’s easier for you to start to really not only delegate aspects of the work, but organize really how you deliver, what other people can do, what you should be doing — but you also get a lot more clarity around actually having a process, knowing that when you do this, then next you do that. You can work through it.

The other benefit of this is that as you develop a process that is very clear and straightforward, you’re able to start to see ways to scale it, to scale your consulting business up, to scale the delivery up. That’s very beneficial, because it allows you to run in a much more efficient way and also much more profitable. But the other reason why this is really beneficial is because clients like to see that you have a process.

They want to know that you’re not just doing things off of the seat of your pants, but that you’re bringing a process or a way that you’ve engaged with others and now you’re going to be taking them through.

But giving them that ability to say, “Hey, let’s take a break,” or, “I don’t want to move forward,” helps a lot of them with risk reversal. You’re reversing the risk.

So having a process like one I’m going to share with you developed, that you can use not only for the benefit of your business but to also explain to prospective buyers and clients, is really, really powerful. That’s what we’re going to get into right now.

There’s four parts to creating this process. Let’s just say this is part number one. This is what we call assess. Now, what you’re doing when you are in the assess phase is you’re starting off and you’re assessing the situation.

This is what we often call the discovery offer.

But it’s the first step to really understand what is going on in your client’s organization, what the opportunities are, the threats are, what can be done. It gives you clarity as to how to best move forward through the next stages of the process.

The outcome, the deliverable from this, is really that you are going to put together a high-level plan. And so this would include your recommendations. That’s kind of what the output is from this.

Now, buyers love this because they get a sense of where things are at. The benefit for them, and for you as well when you’re selling it, is that when you have this, when you give them some recommendations, high-level, like, Here’s what I see.

Here’s the next steps, it means that you’re not saying to them, “Hey, this is going to be $100,000 project. We’re going to get into it right away if they invest $100,000 and we’ll kind of figure things out as we go along.” No. Step one of the process is to assess.

That gives you a lot more clarity. That gives the client some recommendations. Then, you can adjust the rest of your service delivery based on what you find here, so you can ensure that it’s much more efficient and effective.

Now, each part of this process can be sold individually, so one after the other. Meaning that … Let’s say your buyer comes in. They start with you at stage number one, they kind of go through the assess phase. If for some reason they decide they don’t want to move forward after that, that’s okay.

Give them that choice, because the reality is most will want to continue working through, because they won’t get all the benefits unless they go through every stage of the process. But giving them that ability to say, “Hey, let’s take a break,” or, “I don’t want to move forward,” helps a lot of them with risk reversal. You’re reversing the risk.

They have a lot less hesitation because they feel like they have much more power in controlling how the process can go, which they can, right? They get to choose. But it works out beneficially for both parties.

Now, the second phase of the process here is what we’d call plan. You might be saying, “Well, you just said plan here. What’s the difference?” The difference is that this is going to be a detailed plan.

This is a detailed plan. This is what they get from this. Think strategic recommendations. Think step by step. In assess, it’s high-level recommendations and a very high-level plan of what should come next. You actually say, “Okay. We’ve done this initial assessment.

Here’s what we know we need to do. Here’s what has to happen for there to be success in this project.” Well, now you actually get into developing the specific, strategic, step-by-step plan of what’s going to happen next.

Next is what we’d call implementation or you can just say implement for short, this is where you actually now take the strategic recommendations from Plan and implement them here. Now, depending on how you structure your service offer, you may be the one actually doing the implementation.

You don’t just put something in place and then you’re finished forever, right? There’s always going to be ways to refine, to improve, to optimize, to make better and better, and so that’s what optimization is all about.

But if you’re like most consultants, you will be guiding or advising the recommendation, so working with the team or the leadership or whoever it is to actually implement upon the recommendation that you develop during your strategic plan.

The final phase here, which is phase four … Which a lot of people don’t often think about, yet it’s really powerful … is what we call … I’m going to write it right here … optimize. If you think about your work, like any work where people are trying to improve performance or trying to make some kind of game, it’s not …

You don’t just put something in place and then you’re finished forever, right? There’s always going to be ways to refine, to improve, to optimize, to make better and better, and so that’s what optimization is all about.

Even though you’ve now implemented upon the initial plan, what’s going to happen is as you implement, you’re going to get some data. You’re going to get feedback from the marketplace or whatever you’re implementing and you’ll know,

Okay. Here’s how we improve, these are the measures of … We’ve hit these levels of success. But it doesn’t mean that you’re done. There’s still going to be more work to do if you want to continue improving upon that or ensuring that you maintain that level of improvement. And so that’s where optimize comes in.

Implement, the output is implementation. In optimize, really what you’re delivering could be things like coaching …

Let’s say ongoing coaching or training. It might be even mentorship. It could be working with teams. There’s a lot of different ways that you can deliver on optimize. But this is usually ongoing or for a set period of longer-term time.

But the other thing with optimize is that in some cases, depending on the size of the project, the project …

Even though this may be the four phases that make up your process, you may find that you’re going kind of back again and working into other areas of the organization or working further, deeper and deeper, along the project lines that you’ve already begun.

Those are the four … One, two, three, four … phases — assess, plan, implement or implementation, and optimize — that you want to work through.

There’s variations to them. Some people might have five or six steps to their overall process, but this is really the base that you can build on.


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13 thoughts on “Proven 4 Stage Consulting Project Process: Video

  1. Scott Gould says:

    Thanks for this Michael.

    I’ve long used variations of this approach, as far back as 2010 actually, so it certainly is a good one by my experience.

    I’m curious: what size report do you normally provide after Stage 1?

    • My pleasure Scott. The report can be as short as 1-3 pages, some people prefer to create some slides and take their clients through that either in person or online – and that can work well. The length isn’t the issue. The important part is ensuring that the client feels a sense of clarity, greater confidence and starts to have a benefit, result or value being delivered so they want to move to the next phase and continue the engagement.

      • Scott Gould says:

        Thanks Michael. What type of price range do you usually put this assessment into? I’ve heard of it being a ‘no brainier’ price of sub-10k, but am unsure myself

        • Discovery offers range from 1.5k to 15k. Will depend on the size and situation of the client.

          • Scott Gould says:

            Yep, my experience too. Thanks for verifying.

  2. Thank You, Optimization is not somethng I have been doing, but I will certainly include it in my process! I can see that it would b well received sometimes with somee clients.

    • Glad it resonated Anne and that you found it helpful! Keep us posted on your business growth!

  3. Thank you for sharing, Michael. This has been key for us to move clients forward and for assessing if the relationship will work for both parties. It’s a great for filtering and for decreasing anxieties. We’ve found that it’s great for building trust, the foundation for great clients.

    • Great share Daniel! You’re very welcome and excited to hear how your business grows.

  4. Hi Michael, thanks for this. How would you suggest pricing each phase? Sounds like optimise is a retainer?

    • You’re welcome Stephanie. If this is a new client starting with the first phase set at a lower fee to get your foot in the door works great. Allows you to demonstrate and deliver value, establish the relationship and leads to higher fees in the next phases. You’ll also be able to figure out how to price the next phases better once you’ve gone through the first phase. If you’re productizing your offer the fee will usually be set beforehand. Yes, Optimize is typically structured as an on-going or set duration retainer.

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